Man-Made vs. God-Given


It was a little ridiculous. Okay, it was a LOT ridiculous.  We were only about 5 miles away, and we were happy with our new house.  Plus, it had only been a week.  The Saturday after the move, I just wanted to see our old house.  Michael was working in the new yard, the kiddos were riding bikes and scooters in the cul-de-sac, all under control.  I’d just do a little drive-by.

On the way over, I remembered Lindsay’s initial reaction to seeing the “for sale” sign in the front yard.  The move was not a surprise – we had talked to the children about it, but I guess seeing the sign made it more “real” to her.  She was only 5, and the only move she remembered was the one from Florida to Georgia.  In that particular move, she left her friends and her church – her whole little world. Her five-year-old mind couldn’t really understand that this move was different: she would still be in the same school, with the same friends, in the same church, involved in the same activities.  In her own little way, this move was a “move of faith” for her.  She was having to trust mom and dad to tell her the truth and act in her best interests even when she did not understand.

Pulling into our former subdivision, I passed the pool and a favorite neighbor’s house.  This sweet couple had brought over dinner for us the day we moved in.  It was a welcome treat after being on the road from Florida for so many hours.  Turning the corner, I saw “our” house.  Though the new owners were not outside at the moment, I could tell some work was going on,  They were moving plants, bringing in furniture, same things we were doing in our new house.  I could see paint cans in the driveway, and a ladder.  It was no surprise that they were painting, and I imagined that Lindsay’s vivid pink walls would be the first to go!  It was an exciting time, transforming a house into a home, and I smiled for the new couple.

Then I noticed a big, white… wait. What was that?  No, it wasn’t.  No, they didn’t.  No, they couldn’t have.  No really, they wouldn’t.  I had to slow down so I could see it better.  Yes. The  big white piece was my custom bookshelves, and it was apparent they were on their way to the dump.  They had been built in, so getting them out must have been some work. I loved those shelves.  Eight feet high, they went almost up to the ceiling.  Cabinets underneath the adjustable shelves, and moulding to match the rest of the room.  The carpenter did a beautiful job.  They looked as if they had always belonged there, and they were my favorite part of my formal living room.

I remember when I had finally saved enough money to have those shelves built.  I couldn’t wait to see them installed.  Upon moving to this house, I had not been able to unpack all my books because I didn’t have a place to put them.  The day the shelves were finally finished, I carried my boxes of books up from the garage.  Opening each box and sorting, I opened each one to get reacquainted with these old friends.  I sorted them and put them in my own order, arranging some by memory, arranging some by height, some by category…. Once I was done, I loved how they looked – I just sat and admired them.  Moving my favorite chair in between my new shelves and my big picture window created a perfect setting for a quiet read. Love!

Now my bookshelves were in the front yard.  Scrap wood.

Heartbroken at first, I turned and went home.  When I told Michael, he wasn’t surprised at all (let me tell you something about Michael – he’s not getting involved in melodramatics – he’s stable at all times).  He told me, “You know why they did that, don’t you?  When you had those shelves built in, you covered up the cable outlet.”

The cable outlet?  Was he for real?  The cable outlet.  I thought about my shelves.  Jane Austen used to live there, and Charlie Shedd.  Emily Bronte, Elisabeth Elliot and Edith Wharton.  Margaret Runbeck and Catherine Marshall. All my biographies (I love a true story), and my own stories, my journals and photo albums, my treasures.  Now they were ripped out and for what? SportsCenter?

Michael brought me out of my melodrama and back in to reality. “Jennifer, they did not rip out Jane Austen.  You moved her here.  Go inside and read a book if you want.  Besides, SportsCenter is awesome.”  I had to laugh at myself.  I went inside and started to make plans for new bookshelves. Wonder if that carpenter is still available?

Jesus had advice regarding our treasures here on earth.  He said, ““Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21).  It is not wrong to have material things – the Lord wants you to be blessed!   However, it is wrong if your greatest treasures are tangible and temporal.

We are told that earthly treasures can be stolen or destroyed.  Jesus does not tell us how to protect these “earthly treasures”.  There no way to protect or preserve forever what is made by man. Jesus tells us to replace them with treasures in heaven. There’s our exchange, our “trade”.  If we release our earthly treasures, God will give us treasures in heaven where man cannot ever take them away.  We carry these God-given treasures in our hearts and in our spirit.

At the end of the day, my bookshelves weren’t really a loss.  They weren’t even my bookshelves anymore.  My reaction was obviously disproportionate.  Besides, my joy wasn’t found in those bookshelves.  They were paint, wood, nail, easily replaced and rebuilt. I had more valuable treasures in my life and in my heart.

One more thing about treasures, about the things that give us happiness: if we give man the power to control or create our happiness, then we are also giving man the power to destroy or steal our happiness.  Putting your treasure in human hands is a bigger gamble than I am willing to take, how about you? Recognizing God as the source and control of my happiness here on earth, storing my abundance in Him – that’s a treasure.

Praying that you will be able to differentiate between man-made and God-made treasures in your life today, my friend 🙂

Jennifer ❤

Because I Didn’t Name My Son George


I didn’t name my son George, but I really wanted to!  It’s my dad’s name, and I love him.  Michael vetoed that one when we were choosing names for our sons.  (I had veto power myself, and used it to nix Rayphord.  Yes, with a ph.  If either of the twins are reading this, y’all are welcome!). I’ll tell you a story about George today.

I had been running and not paying attention to the oversized hammock strung between the two tress in front of me.  How could I miss that?  Six years old, I had been more concerned with what was behind me than what was in front of me: it was a great game of tag, and my little brother was gaining on me fast!  I ran straight into the hammock and was flipped over onto my back. When I hit the ground, the wind had been knocked out of me.  Little and scared, I looked frantically for my dad.  I didn’t have to wait long.  From my vantage point on the ground, I saw it happen: my dad jumped of the back porch – jumped off the back porch! – landed on his feet and came to my rescue without hesitation.  You should have seen our back porch.  It was high, I’m telling you.  Scary high.  Daddy lifted me up, reassured me, and stayed with me until I felt safe again.  Already convinced that my dad was Superman, I now had proof: I had seen him fly.

This would not be the only time that my dad came to my rescue.  Over and over again in my life, he made it clear through his words and action that nothing was more important to him than the success and safety of our family.  He spent time with us, provided for us, protected us, loved us.  it was obvious that the main goal in my dad’s life was to care for us and strengthen us.  This knowledge made it pretty easy to submit to him.  If you were convinced that your authority was dedicated to your happiness and success it would be infinitely easier to obey, wouldn’t it?  Sure!  That’s the way it was with my dad.

Of course, I went through difficult years like most of us did.  I made my own mistakes and learned my own lessons.  Though he always put in his “two cents worth”, Dad would let me struggle at times.  In his wisdom, he knew that I would learn even in the struggle.  Certainly, there was always a reminder that my difficulty would have been avoided or made easier had I listened, but even when I fell, he was always there to help me up.

Looking back, I honestly can’t remember a time when my dad turned out to be wrong.  I didn’t always do what he told me, but things always seemed to work to my benefit when I did. From my childhood forward, there were times when I understood his direction and times when I did not understand.  In either case, there was one aspect of his instruction that I always understood completely: my dad loved me and his motives centered around me becoming successful and happy.   In a perfect world, our relationships with our earthly fathers would prepare us for and be a type of the relationship we would develop with our heavenly Father.  In this way, as in every other possible way, my dad id his job well. As I grew, I was able to apply my experience with my earthly father to what would become my experience with my Heavenly Father.  Because it was my experience that fathers were loving and caring and protective, I was able to accept that love more easily from my Father God.

Sadly, everyone does not have the relationship with their earthly fathers as I did with mine.  If your experience was different, you have to make a concerted effort to seek healing and to  exchange whatever feelings you have toward your earthly father for what you know to be true about your Heavenly Father: God loves you! Obedience is key,  and our best path to obedience is being convinced that God loves us and means our best.  As His motives toward us are pure, our motives in obedience must be pure as well. Sometimes it is important for us to know why we do the things we do.  When we were children, we did things because we were told.  Sometimes we understood why, sometimes we did not.  However, as it is acceptable to use wisdom in helping us make decisions, it is not acceptable to trust your own wisdom over the wisdom of the Lord.  When in doubt of your situation, you must never doubt God’s heart toward you.  Practice being obedient.  Make it your aim to please God, whether or not you understand His ways completely.

As we mature and make decisions for ourselves, the reason behind our obedience can help in the process.  God searches out our motives as well as our obedience.  In Jeremiah 17:10, God speaks to us and tells us, “I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give to each man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings.” The motives behind your obedience (or disobedience) will produce fruit, and it is according to that fruit you will be judged.  Strive to keep your heart open and pure before the Lord.

God’s Word communicates to us over and over again that God is love.  Through every word and deed in our lives, we can easily recognize His heart and His intentions toward us.  As we come to rest in His love, we will be able to minister His love to others.  God cares for us so that we may pass on the fullness of God’s care and comfort to others who need to experience His comfort.  In understanding our role in the providential plan of God, we must be aware that all He does for us is not ONLY for us.  As we are His agents here on earth, it is up to us to do His work and see His kingdom increased.

Paul communicates this idea perfectly in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 when he writes, “our Lord Jesus Christ… comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” As we understand His motives toward us and as we find ourselves comforted by God, we are to pass that comfort on to others.  As you become more and more obedient to Christ, you’ll find it easier and easier to serve others.  My dad modeled this before me very well.  When our obedience comes full circle in this way, we will be simultaneously fulfilling God’s plans for our lives AND furthering His kingdom here on earth.  Win-win!  In this way, our motives are every bit as important as our obedience.

From my six year old perspective, that porch was high.  Scary high, I’m telling you.  Years later, all grown and with children of my own, I stood in the backyard with my dad, my hero. Remembering that day and so many other days where he had put me first, I saw that porch from an adult perspective.  Funny – it was only about four feet off the ground.  I looked at my dad and realized: it didn’t change my perspective on him one single bit.  Still convinced that my dad is Superman, I had proof: I had seen him fly.

Having an example to follow here on earth is a bonus – realizing that we have the greatest example in Jesus Christ is a treasure.  Praying that you’ll find His example worthy to follow  and experience the blessings of obedience in your life ❤

Jennifer 🙂